Sunday, 30 October 2011

October flowers

It's October and things are starting to heat up... at least in colour, if not the weather! We've had a lot of rain, cool days and wind this month, but there must have been some sunshine in there somewhere, because everything is growing madly.

I am watering my neighbours' garden while they are away, and in return I get to pick the ranunculus. Such beautiful vibrant blooms, and they last a good week in the vase. I really need to remember to get some ranunculus bulbs of my own come February.

These are some primroses I picked up on sale in late winter. Actually, I don't think they were on sale, I think I just gave in to temptation and purchased them even though I didn't really need them. Aren't they beautiful though? The pink ones are so frilly. The colours remind me of hydrangeas. Hopefully they will sleep all summer without drying out, and pop back into life next winter. That will be something to look forward to.

What's blooming in your garden this month?

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Clematis flowers

 My clematis burst into flower this month. It began as a cutting from my mum's garden, which I kept in water till its roots sprouted, then kept in a pot for a time while I dithered about where to put it. Eventually I decided on this driveway spot and put it in. It was too late for a show last year but the plant put out leaves and tendrils and finally, buds.

I didn't train it in this heart shape on purpose, but I'll certainly be doing my best to keep it that way!

The flowers are a lovely pale pink. We aren't sure of the variety but Mum thinks possibly Montana.

I also took cuttings of a lovely magenta pink one. It was kept pot bound even longer until I decided on this spot, just outside the kitchen window. I planted it and it put out some leaves... lovely tasty leaves which were quickly devoured by snails. These seem to be hardy plants though and I'm not writing it off just yet. Some snail bait put paid to the munching, and it's forming some more leaf buds. I'll keep my fingers crossed that there are some flower buds in there too.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Summer patchwork quilt blanket

Edit Feb 2014: I've finally finished the blanket! You can get all the details here.

I've done a few more hexagons for my quilt.

They are very quick to make and join, so the blanket is growing quite noticeably. It's probably a third of the way finished. Being able to visualise the end of a project always helps me to finish it.

I'm still loving these summer colours, the bright fresh coral and peach and the beachy blue.

Yes, it's getting there.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Magazine inspiration

 I think I have mentioned before that I have a small problem when it comes to magazines. The problem is that I am addicted. The central library used to have a great selection of international gardening magazines, and I enjoyed making special trips into town to pile up as many as I could carry home, to feast my eyes over the gorgeous images. Unfortunately the central library has been a no go zone since the Feb 22 quake, and I have no idea what happened to their subscription magazines - they haven't come to my local library. So I'm having to buy magazines. (I'm not as sad about this as you might imagine.)

 The good thing is that I'm amassing a good home library of beautiful pictures, and the bad thing is that international magazines are so damn expensive, and also the wrong season! But, by the time they hit the shops here, they are a couple of months out of date and therefore pretty much only a season ahead, if you think of it that way. 

 Anyway. This is the August issue of Gardens Illustrated, from the UK. I love the colours of the late summer plants pictured above... I really must get myself some honesty seeds. And I would love a bower like in the second picture - but I will settle for making myself a bench out of some rustic planks (got plenty of those lying around).

 Now, get ready for something exciting. This is La Chatonniere in France - and check out that potager shaped like a rose leaf!!! I do think that is the most beautiful potager design I've ever seen. I'm just so excited by it. If I were starting my potager over again, I'd try to incorporate this design. Of course, I'd need a castle and a humongous estate to really do it properly.

There are several themed gardens throughout La Chatonniere and each has a name. The potager is the Garden of Abundance. My other favourite is the Garden of Dance - thousands of narcissi and other spring bulbs planted in this beautiful pattern, which sway and dance in the spring breeze. Have a look at the La Chatonniere website for more photos and information on the other gardens, including Intelligence, Romance, Luxuriance, Fragrance and Silence.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Weird cat behavoiur #6


Rubbish bin diving.

This is a cartoon I drew for Jon to illustrate what I saw one night when I returned home, after dark, on rubbish bin night. In the beam of my torch were two sets of eyes and two furry faces. One was noshing down on some (fortunately unidentifiable) food scraps from someone's rubbish bin. The nosher was having a great time - he was chewing hard, licking his lips, and thoroughly enjoying his triumph. The onlooker was not so happy - he evidently did not possess the skills necessary to balance on the rim of a wheelie bin, get his paws under the lid, wiggle his shoulders under while clinging to the rim with his back claws, grab out the delicacy and gracefully leap to the ground with it. You could tell he desperately wished to be so skilled.

Lui has honed these skills after years of practice. We now keep bricks on the lids of the bins and our neighbours, after learning the hard way, do the same. It also pays to keep the bins a good distance apart on rubbish bin night, or stealthy food filchers will stand on one while rummaging through another.

For more Weird Cat Behaviour posts, go here.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Vintage linen

I recently picked up some vintage linen at the local op shop. My idea was to use it as a base for embroidery so I was looking for plain, natural-coloured pieces. I found a few of those, and I even bought some which had flower patterns printed on them, with the idea that I could embellish the print. I also found lots of already embroidered pieces, and of course I couldn't just leave them behind.

It cost me $7.00 for the lot, which was great, but also sad, because there was an embroidered tablecloth with crochet edging which alone would have taken months to make. I know all crafters feel the pang when they see something sold so cheaply which has taken so much work to make, but the flip side is that at least it is coming home with me to be loved and cherished! And I can't help feeling pleased on the whole, because there is a lot of fabric there which would have cost a lot more than $7.00 to buy new.

A lot of the fabric was stained or yellowed, so my first task was to wash it. I asked google first and found that the first thing to try is soaking in vinegar, so I added half a cup to some warm water and put them in for a few hours. Then I rinsed them well and put them out in the sun. I was surprised at how well this technique worked - a lot of the lighter stains were gone. There were a few spots and darker ones left, so I'll try a dab of lemon juice next, then dry in the sun.

This is the tablecloth I was talking about. It probably had the worst staining, but I'm pretty confident I can get it out, and if not I'll embrace it as part of the character of the piece! I'd like to have an embroidered tablecloth for every season... this will be spring, with its soft pinks and greens.

This is one I already had, but it was in the cleaning pile because it had a tiny smear of printer ink on it. I'd been too scared to try and get it out before, but the vinegar soak faded it a lot, and I'm hoping lemon juice will finish it off. Hydrogen peroxide will be my last resort.

Now it's time to get the iron out (don't worry, I'm a freak who actually enjoys ironing). Then I have to finish my current embroidery project (only two lines of backstitch to go!) and then I'll have a play with all this lovely fabric.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Blossom in the potager

Spring is definitely in the air - fortunately it's not making me sneeze too much! I spent a lot of time outside today weeding, and no doubt next week the weeds will just be back and laughing at me. It's lovely to be outside at the moment - there is blossom on the cherry tree, the grass is emerald green and lush, and flowers (particularly pansies) are blooming their hearts out all around the place. There is a heavy smell of blossom in the air, which doesn't come from the cherry tree but from the bushy green shrubbery along the fenceline. These enormous bushes are on the neighbour's side of the fence, but they are so tall that they've spread out over the fence to my side as well. It's the southern boundary so they don't block any sun, plus the birds nest in them. They also block the view of my neighbours' yard, as the fence is quite low and the palings are spaced far apart - a rather silly design really. So they have a function, I just wish they weren't so untidy in general.

This ballerina apple has also got her finery on. This is ballerina Bolero, and Waltz is not far behind.

 The peas I planted in the glasshouse are thriving. I thought they were only supposed to grow to 45cm tall, which is why I put in short stakes, but as you can see they are well past that.

 And it won't be long before I'm picking fresh peas for dinner.

Also not far away - fresh strawberries! Can't wait for these.

And the first bud on the pink rhododendron, promising a big display in the next few weeks.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Spring potager

It's spring and the potager is looking lush. Mizuna is rapidly growing along the edges, carrots are feathering up, peas are sprouting and broccoli is... well, not heading but certainly forming lots of leaves. Weeds are of course growing madly so I spent some time this weekend weeding, as well as digging in compost and preparing a patch for potatoes. There's still so much to do... I wish the broccoli would hurry up and do its thing, because I want that space for beans and tomatoes.

I planted these from a punnet at easter so they should have been ready by now. I don't want to rip them out, such a waste! But I really do need this space in the next few weeks.

There's been plenty to harvest: spring onions, silver beet, lettuce, broad beans, early carrots, leeks and herbs (rosemary, sage, thyme, golden marjoram, mint, basil mint, chives...) The winter garden did well this year.

However I have to change my strategy when it comes to watering. The city reservoirs sustained damage in the quakes, so we've now been hit with water restrictions for summer. No sprinklers or unattended hoses, and I'm only allowed to use the outdoor tap on certain days of the week. So hand watering it is. 

It poured on Saturday so I set out buckets to catch the rain. I also put a bucket in the shower, and when the washing machine was going I waited out by the drain with yet more buckets to catch the runoff! That netted the most water, actually I was rather shocked at how much the washing machine goes through. I have two big plastic rubbish bins to store all the water in and when that was all over they were both full. So I should be ok, as long as it doesn't come to a complete hose ban! Tedious though, the thought of crouching by the drain every weekend siphoning water into buckets. Worth it to keep the tomatoes alive though I suppose.

Let's hope it's still as lush as this in a couple of months time!

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


I've been playing with pretty threads this week. Gorgeous silk and cotton and rayon, and the loveliest textured linen to work on. I work back stitch and chain stitch and french knots and crosses. Tone on tone or bright splashes of colour.

This is a tapestry sampler - a little square worked on canvas that can be sewn into a pincushion or sachet. It came from the studio of Jane van Keulen - a textile artist who hand dyes a range of beautiful threads. She also has some lovely kits, and I stocked up on several - three different tapestry samplers, and a larger needlework piece, as well as some hand dyed threads and linen. So far all I've finished is the above piece, but I'm having fun with it. Embroidery is so lovely and tactile, the threads shimmer and shine and each different stitch provides a different texture.

Such a delightful way to spend an afternoon. Unfortunately I can hardly see to do it unless it's daylight, so luckily I still have my crochet patchwork blanket to occupy me in the evening. It's satisfying to be feathering my nest with such pretty things.


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